1. SarahN
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    SarahN Member

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    Story going the wrong way?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by SarahN, Jan 2, 2009.

    Have any of you ever felt like your story or maybe more so your characters were leading you in a direction you didn't want to go?

    I am having this issue. I am writing a YA novel and the lead character is an 8 year old girl. I have divided my book into three parts (atleast in my mind) and am currently at the beginning of the second part where the lead character is attending school (boarding school of sorts) and she has one roommate and 6 additional suitemates (the four rooms share a common room).

    In the beginning the girls were going to be friends and the group as a whole would work together to solve a problem. The issue I am having is that every time I write I feel like these girls are being sarcastic and mean instead of genuinly helpful and nice, and it is really bothering me. They are just words so I am trying to ignore the voice in my head that is saying that the characters are mocking or making fun of the lead character because that isn't the way I had intended the story to go.

    If you have encountered the same or a similar problem what do you do? Do you allow your characters to go where they want to go or do you ignore it and keep going with your original idea?
     
  2. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    It seems to me that if you forced the story to go where you originally planned, it might come off as false or unrealistic. It's hard to say, because it's not my story.

    You could always go out on a limb and follow this uprising to its source, and maybe end up with a different, but still good, story. Or crush it, build more obedient characters and try again.
    Or do both.
    Then again, I can't help but think that it still might go the way you want it to anyways, depending on how big a role these other girls have in the story. If it not too big, then I want to say it might work out. Kids can be really mean and selfish. A lot of people tend to forget that. Maybe you're subconsciously bringing out a truer sense of childhood in your writing.

    Maybe I'm crazy.
     
  3. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your characters sound like "real" people which should make your story more credible. Just remember the ancient Arab proverb..."The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Your story can benefit from those personality differences as the characters confront a common enemy or common threat that forces them to work together.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's really best to go with your instincts, but you can't force it to be what you want it to be if that's not the right way to tell the story. Besides, why not have a little sarcasm in the mix? There are too many children's stories that are overly sweet and innocent. Just compare the original My Little Pony with the current version. These days they would never have a story about evil flowers that suck the life out of all the other plants around them (for some reason, that's an episode that sticks out for me) Eight kids solving a problem and having no conflict among themselves sounds pretty boring to me, and could very easily fall into that way-too-sweet category.
     
  5. SarahN
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    SarahN Member

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    I agree with everyone. I also think to some degree it is unrealistic for 8 girls to get along without problems. I guess maybe without realizing I found the truth of my lead character. She feels like she isn't good at making friends and as a result of her circumstances has a hard time trusting... so she doubts herself and wonders if the others are being mean or being nice since with girls there is a VERY fine line between sarcasm and compliments.
     
  6. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    What bothers me most of all is that you keep referring to the six girls as a single, tightly-knit group. Why should they all be mean or all be nice? You seem to be characterizing them as if they have some sort of hive-mind. It would be more realistic if each girl had an individual personality; an individual opinion of the MC. For example, one of the girls may totally hate her, another may think she's the best thing since sliced bread, and another may not care either way. Opinions differ, even among close friends.

    Also, the differences in opinions opens up a whole new world of sub-plot opportunities. For example, how do the girls react when the MC first shows up? Some will like her, others won't; will they feel as if she is breaking up their group? How does each girl react to that possible threat to their friendship. This leads to all sorts of character development scenarios.
     
  7. SarahN
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    SarahN Member

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    Since the chapter I am currently writing is the first chapter with the girls I do speak of them as a group because they have not yet stepped away from it. I know that they will become their own individual people in the next few chapters, but right now I speak about them as a group because that is all they are currently known by, if that makes sense.

    Also I think that because the lead character doesn't know them other than as 'a group of girls' and her suitemates part of clumping together the girls as a whole is because I am seeing them the way the MC currently sees them. I don't doubt it will change by the end of the story and each girl's personality will come out.

    My concern and the reason for the post has less to do about specifically my storyline than as a general writing/plot issue - do your characters ever run away from you or do they follow the path you had intended?
     
  8. sweetchaos
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    sweetchaos Contributing Member

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    Most definitely. My storyline has changed quite a bit from the original all because my characters don't want to behave. I'm currently having trouble sticking two of them together because one of them isn't stupid enough to fall for the others games. It's frustrating!

    I generally just go with the flow. If it's what they feel they need to do, then it must be the right thing...I hope. LOL
     
  9. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    All the time. This is why I don't put too much effort into detailed outlining when I write. I know someody is going to act up and send the ship off course. Many a chapter has been detoured by "mis-characterization." (That's what I call it when I expect a character to do something, only to find that they simply wouldn't act that way. :)) But those little detours are usually for the best and it's often not difficult to get things back on track. I would rather see the story take a slight curve, while keeping the characters intact, than to have the characters doing things that are out-of-character.
     
  10. Ribs
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    Ribs New Member

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    As much as I think it's a good idea to have a good grasp of your plot and characters when writing a story, I think it's even more vital to have the flexibility to go with the flow and let your characters shape and change the story on their own. So go with the new path it's taking. The best way to get stuck is to lock yourself in too much.

    Someone told me once that after each draft you should throw out your "best line". It seemed odd at first but sometimes the inspiration that creates a story kills it just as easily and doesn't make the final cut. And that's ok.
     
  11. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    My stories sometimes go in quite a different directon from what I intended, but it never really ends up in a direction that I don't want it to go. If anything I just get surprised and find out it turns out better than I'd planned.

    If your characters insist on not acting the way you wanted them to, and you really don't want to take the story in the direction they're taking it, then you probably need to sit down and figure out what's going on with these characters, to make them so different from what you wanted them to be. Forcing the story along the original path, and forcing the characters to be what you wanted them to be, will make it sound false, as someone else mentioned. Somebody might (or might have already) chime in with "They're your characters, YOU control them!" and while that's true, that means that YOU are the one making them rebel against what you have planned for them, even unintentionally. So you have to figure out why this is happening. Maybe the story you thought you wanted to write is not really the story you need to write, or maybe you haven't spent enough time developing the characters properly, so of course they're not following your commands--you don't know them as well as you thought.

    Just some suggestions. I really can't say. But whatever the case, I do think you need to stop and examine both the plot and the characters more closely.

    You can always just let the story play out as it wants to play out and see how it ends up. It might be better than you planned.

    Characters, too, can take quite a different path. I created a new character not that long ago and had such big hopes for him but he went in a completely different direction. I'm struggling not to fight against it because I know that if I force him to do what *I* (consciously) want, he won't end up a convincing character after all. It happens.
     
  12. Hetroclite
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    In one of my how-to-write books, there is the suggestion to let the story write itself. So go with it & see where it leads. You can always rewrite it.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    All MCs shouldn't get along. They should argue and fight sometimes. Conflict makes for dialog we want to read. I would go with it. Let them be who they are. They seem to know that they shouldn't all get along all the time.
     
  14. Shrimpbot
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    Shrimpbot New Member

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    Now this is never happened to me, but it sounds like you should just make another draft of the book. Have one be the characters taking you where they want to, and another how you envisioned it. But from what's on the shelf at my local borders, the YA audience likes when there is a conflict like that (sarcasm, gossip etc...). but honestly, trust your gut instinct. Good luck with your story! =D
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it's going the wrong way, it's often a gaping plot hole that you need to address. Characters, despite how it seems, don't work under their own volition. They act according to the behavioral patterns you have created around them, and interacting with the story elements you have placed in proximity to them.

    Rather than try to tweak the characters, or to coerce them to act the way you had planned, look at what conditions have made them react in the unexpected way. It's usually easier and more natural-seeming to adjust the story elements than to try to force the characters to follow the track in the sane you envisioned.

    Even if you aren't conscious of it - and if the behavior surprises you, you probably are not really aware of it in detail - your characters are following some sort of logic based on what you have set up for them. So if they start heading the wrong way, set up a stronger incentive for them to go the right way, or to turn aside from the wrong way.
     

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